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4.7 out of 5 stars15
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 March 2010
I liked this version enormously. For the first time (except for the recent Henry Goodman version) in a long time a completely sympathetic view of Shylock. Olivier, who can be a bit OTT sometimes, was perfect in this part, and at the end his breakdown is completely convincing. Another thing I always have difficulty is the Portia as a man sequence, but Joan Plowright does this very well, again almost convincing. The anti-semantics (is that right?) are still there of course, but counteracted by the sympathy of other characters. All in all a good version.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 February 2013
I managed to pick this up at the checkout of the local garden centre of all places. Strange reasoning behind that one - 'Let's see, I need three bags of compost, half a dozen fence panels... oh, and I think I'll also buy 'The Merchant of Venice'. Mind you, it obviously works. Once I saw the name 'Jeremy Brett' amongst the cast, this DVD's fate was well and truly sealed. The play was recorded in 1973, wonderfully immortalising the National Theatre's production. It was set in the early 1900s, an idea which definitely adds interest to the action.

My knowledge of Shakespeare and his works is not brilliant, therefore my appreciation of them is not particularly impressive. However, it is hard not to feel privileged at being able to witness such a powerful collection of performances from some of the very finest British stage actors. Olivier himself brings enormous depth to the character of Shylock. The range of his voice alone is impressive enough. Because the dramatisation is effectively a theatrical performance, you get the feeling of intimacy that really makes this something special.

As for Jeremy Brett, it takes an actor of some considerable talent and charisma to be able to distract you from Olivier at his best. Mr Brett manages to do that quite effortlessly. So much is unsaid, it is all about the gestures and expressions. Very much the way he worked when bringing Sherlock Holmes to life so vividly. He was of course one of Olivier's company at the National Theatre at the beginning of his career and was very much influenced by the elder man. With that in mind, it is amazing to be able to see them working so closely together in this.

The only slight issue I have with the film can be traced back to Shakespeare's own plotline - the whole saga of Portia successfully managing to hide her identity from Bassanio. That's her husband, by the way. And there's another woman doing a similar job of pulling the wool over the eyes of HER old man as well. Their method? Dressing up as men. Now, they do a reasonable job of looking vaguely masculine, no complaints there. But apart from that their disguises are on a par with Clark Kent's. These women should be immediately recognisable to the milkman, never mind their husbands. I mean to say, the average husband is trained to notice every new hairstyle, every new outfit, every new shade of eyeshadow their wife might care to indulge in ... you can't tell me these two wouldn't be able to identify their own wives!
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on 30 March 2014
Anyone who says, "Oh Olivier wasn't that good an actor," has never seen his Shylock. I am thrilled that this historic performance is now available on DVD. It's been unavailable for far too long. If you never see any performance of Olivier's but this one, you will realize the extent to which he gave himself over to a character. It's excellent, as is his Othello. And the rest of the cast is terrific as well. The pathos which one finds in Olivier's Shylock is important: It illuminates Portia's famous speech about "The quality of mercy," in that it makes the viewer realize that in Shakespeare's time Jews were terribly persecuted. But one will also realize what empathy one feels for the Old Jew. It is a masterpiece.
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on 18 November 2011
The acting, in this production of "The Merchant of Venice", is really first class.
Gratiano (MICHAEL JAYSTON)is the stirdy, merry, spontaneous, cheeky and a bit scatterbrained young man that he must be.
JOAN PLOWRIGHT is a charming, touching and subtle Portia.She misses no shade of feeling of the character she embodies. I'm particularly fond of her interpretation of the trial scene, where Portia pretends to be young judge Balthazar. She speaks with the authority and self-control of her so-called office, but manage to let us perceive her emotions and her efforts to suppress it.
The part of Antonio is performed by ANTONY NICHOLLS, a nice actor older than JEREMY BRETT (Bassanio), and so, Antonio looks like a loving father, entirely devoted to his beloved son.
Bassanio is embodied by dear JEREMY BRETT (Sherlock Holmes in the outstanding Granada series of the same name). In Shakespeare's play, there are not plenty of explanations about Bassanio, but we can deduce...He is loved by good and melancholy Antonio and therefore must have all the qualities of a gentleman, and be young, and full of life and cheerfulness.He is loved by Portia, and so must be extremely attractive. JEREMY BRETT is all that: gentleman like, bursting with vitality, devilishly attractive. Had he been given a deeper character to embody, he would have shown the full depth of his insight, but he was not the age and had not the look to play Shylock...
Shylock is played by the great LAURENCE OLIVIER who gives a fantastic interpretation of the part.He first appears as a finicky and slightly ridiculous old man who makes us smile. And then, when Shylock's daughter runs away, Olivier expresses Shylock's pain with such a tremendous strength that he makes us understand far better the character, whose wickedness comes from his violent and hidden sufferings.How he cries in front of his deceased wife's portrait, because his daughter has paid unnecessary triffles with the ring her mother gave his father long ago! I must confess I was moved.Then, Shylock's pain turns into icy rage.Beautiful!
But there are also very amusing moments in the play. The Prince of Aragon is played as a decrepit and doddering old man; the actor's performance is excellent,he is quite hilarious. And it's only one example among many others.
I have yet two little reservations to express:
I wonder why the director decided to dress the actors with costumes from the 19° century. They behave, think and speack as men and women of the 16° century, so they should wear costumes of the same era.
The DVD has very little bonus footage: only a photo gallery and it does not provide us with subtitles. What are the hearing impaired people supposed to do? And what of the foreigners like me? We need english subtitles, and more so when the characters speak old english! I had the printed play with me, but some bits of the play have been cut out (for instance the hilarious conversation between Lancelot Gobbo and old Gobbo)and some others have been shifted, so I was sometimes lost and had to press the "still" button...
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on 28 March 2014
Contrary to everyone else, I thought this was the poorest version of any Shakespeare play I have ever seen. The setting in the 19th century does not work and detracts greatly from the play. Surprisingly, I thought Olivier was dreadful and so obviously acting. The part where he breaks the picture is awful.Totally over the top. Plowright was too old for this part and also comes across as trivial. Gratiano comes across as sneaky rather than cheeky. Antonio seems not to know what he is doing in business matters. The whole thing is a shambles and is further let down by poor sound recording.
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on 21 September 2008
With an excellent cast, and my favourite quote in all shakespeare..'the fool multitude who judge by show...' delivered by a superb actor and totally cut out of the pacino version, an unforgivable error, and a pasty vague version with very little memorable characters or scenes to boot, this version just flies above it in all regards, and worth buying a video recorder for alone.How dare pacino dumb down this masterpiece!
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on 25 February 2014
A wonderful opportunity to see the performance of actors who added something to this wonderful play. It is important to be able to see someone of the calibre of Olivier.
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on 5 September 2015
Great book, prompt delivery, safe packing. Many thanks. John
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on 26 October 2014
It was amesing, but the sound was not as good
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on 4 October 2013
The story an old favourite from schooldays onwards.
An excellent production, of course.
Not actually my favourite, I love Al Pacino in the part of Shylock, which I think is just brilliant.
So, maybe do a search for that production!
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